Hey there, young and not-so-young whippersnappers, if you’re grooving at all to the likes of Vivian Girls, Wavves, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Blank Dogs, or any band on Slumberland Records, then I think you need to send the late, lamented Black Tambourine a card. Or even better, buy this new compilation of their complete recorded works. Here’s the deal, in the late ’80s/early ’90s this Maryland band (including members of Velocity Girl, Veronica Lake, and Whorl) was one of the few American bands that was mixing Jesus and Mary Chain’s barbwire fuzz, the primitive fizz of the Pastels and the Vaselines, and the thick fog of Ride and Lush. At the time, no one noticed and/or ran the other way, little knowing that two decades later, their handful of singles bursting with reverb-drenched shoegaze garage would become a sacred text to a whole generation of noise malcontents and blog darlings. It’s easy to hear why. The songs on Black Tambourine haven’t dated a fucking day; unlabeled on a CD-R, these songs could pass as the work of a brand new band.
But unfortunately, they’re not a new band. Black Tambourine called it a day way too quickly. But we can still drink (listen?) deeply of the small but mighty body of work they left behind — this album collects EVERYTHING, official releases, demos, and some hitherto unreleased tracks, six from the archives and four new songs from a very recent one-off recording session, including a C86-ified cover of Suicide’s impossibly romantic “Dream Baby Dream” (fitting choice) and a Buddy Holly number. The sound is naive and rollicking, barbed, and worldly — a scratchy race through half-forgotten nursery rhymes, girl group classics, and Velvet Underground demos, executed with breathless, primitive brio and drenched in echo. Gothic and twee, entwined in a sweaty embrace. They were there first, without any artifice, heart on sleeve. And man, they look so fucking cute and awkward in the black and white photos that adorn the booklet.
And I have a funny feeling that this might not be a goodbye just yet.